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January 01, 2005

Stingy? Redux

It may be the case that there should be no politics when catastrophe strikes, that we should all just pitch in to help our fellow humans.

But it can't be missed that this particular tragedy struck where young men unashamedly wear Osama bin Ladin t-shirts. Yeahp, look at the guy with the black t-shirt; that's OBL's evil face.

That tends to dampen one's enthusiasm for humanitarian aid.

Update: Although it should be noted, however, that maligned America still sends aid -- counted in the hundreds of millions -- to populations which harbor large numbers of alleged humans who cheered the massacres of 9-11.

If Indonesia sent us money and medicine after September 11, I must have missed it.

Another Update: Meanwhile, the despised American military -- the greatest force for liberation the world has ever known -- is aiding the survivors in Indonesia, a fact even noted by Aljazeera.

And once again, for every one of those grateful for our help...

Reaction was generally positive to the news of an American presence.

"Praise God, they are coming to help us," said Munajar, a Banda Aceh clerk who like many Indonesians uses only one name. "We have been waiting for the international community to assist us and now they have come."

Twenty-one-year old student Marrisa, who registers newly displaced people arriving at a local mosque was hopeful the foreign assistance will stave off a humanitarian disaster.

"So far the Indonesian government has not been able to deliver the aid quickly," she said. "Hopefully now we will receive the food and medicine we need to save these people."

...there were those who just didn't seem to understand that sometimes a simple "Thank You" are the only words needed:

Not everyone was so enthusiastic.

"The Americans have to understand our culture here," said Hilmy Bakar Almascaty, vice-chairman of the Jakarta-based Islamic Defenders Front, which is mobilising relief efforts of its own.

"If they are not sensitive to local issues then there will be problems. If American women come to Aceh, they must wear dilbab for example. There is Sharia law in Aceh and that is what is dictated."

I'm getting a little sick of being instructed that I, and the servicemen and servicewomen we Americans put into the field to fight tyranny and aid the oppressed, must "understand the culture" of those we're trying to help.

For the love of everything holy-- we're shipping in food and medicine and water and evacuating the injured and there are still some fragile-ego'd psychopaths raving about the need for our servicewomen to wear habibs while saving their goddamned asses.

Counterpoint Update: Cedarford offers:

Aceh is a strict conservative Islamic provence of Indonesia. Putting our women soldiers or aid workers in scarfs if the local government requests it is not a big deal. It is a gesture of respect for local customs. At the height of our power, in postwar Japan, US soldiers took off their shoes when invited into a Japanese home and were instructed to give polite half-bows if a member of the Royal Family went by. That was our way back then - friendly humility and respect - and it won us lots of friends.

These days, American travellers try getting into distinguished Eurpean restaurants wearing blue jeans, and whine about having to take their ballcaps off if going into a church....under a meme, it seems, that we are Americans, dammit, and if we want to flout local customs, we will.

Indonesia is a new democratic nation, the most populous Islamic country - trying to make a moderate path for Islam and fighting a radical element there trying to keep the old Islamic ways. The US has a great opportunity to make friends . The last thing we would want to do is get in an arrogant pissing contest over the right of American women to wear whatever they want anywhere in the world, or the right of our men to pop a beer in a Mosque if they feel like it, or the "right" to tell the locals that their homeland is shit compared to ours.

Okay, let's ignore that somewhat off-tangent "ugly Americans" crap in the middle.

There is certainly something to be said for respecting local cultures. And yes, sure, I'd like to make friends... even, I suppose, with people whose "local cultures" include wearing t-shirts glorifying mass-murderers.

But that sort of sums it up right there, doesn't it? A t-shirt glorifying the mass-murderer Osama bin Ladin doesn't insult Islam, but women, trying to distribute food and medicine to the needy, must never take off that damn habib even when sweating from heavy lifting because otherwise we're "humilitating" Muslims again.

Muslims seem to have their "humiliation" indicator on a bit of a hair-trigger, and it's about time they sort of grew up about it. This talk of "humiliation" is really just some culture-wide passive-aggressive attempt to impose their own ways of doing things on others.

I mean, we could scream that it's "humiliating" to demand a working American non-Muslim woman wear a habib simply for the right to distribute medical attention to the stricken. But we don't, do we?

And yes, we should be mindful of Muslims' sensitivities. But such mindfulness really should run both ways, oughtn't it? Shouldn't Muslim politicians refrain from making somewhat-ominous remarks about their being "trouble" should a woman refuse a habib as well?

Let's remember who is helping who here.

If I walk into a man's house to help him put out a fire, and he demands I take off my shoes because that's "his culture," well, you know what? The hell with him. Let him put out fires barefoot by his own self.


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posted by Ace at 09:54 PM

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